New report says more work needed at Juvenile Court

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — There are calls for change at the Shelby County Juvenile Court, coming on the heels of a recent report released about it.

The assessment from the report says while some progress has been made, more needs to be done when it comes to the disparate treatment of African-American inmates.

A 27-page report, discussing Disproportionate Minority Contact, or DMC, is now available to the public.

According to the report, “more aggressive discussions, and action in the form of strategies, policies and implementation need to take place.”

DMC is used to describe the overrepresentation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system.

The report comes shortly after several of Shelby County’s top leaders, including Mayor Mark Luttrell, Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael and Sheriff Bill Oldham recently asked the Department of Justice to end oversight of the Shelby County Juvenile Court.

A 2012 investigation found the Shelby County Juvenile Court did not provide constitutionally required due process to all children and specifically discriminates against African-American children.

News of the request upset many community organizations and Shelby County commissioners.

Commissioner Van Turner acknowledges there has been good change but says this report shows there must be more.

"But I think this would be a good time to press the pause button to continue the DOJ oversight and to you know complete the task," said Turner.

The report generated by a third party as part of the DOJ’s and Shelby County Juvenile Court’s agreement, monitors the level of compliance by the juvenile court every six months. Findings are improvements have been made but more can be done when it comes to referrals, detention and nonjudicial decision making.

Commissioner Turner says it's time for leaders, community groups and county commissioners to work together.

"I think we should at this point remove the emotion, remove the anger, remove all of that stuff that clouds the picture and gets in the way and we should start with a clear vision of working together," he said.

WREG reached out to Judge Dan Michael and the sheriff and did not hear back.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said any comment needs to come from the Judge’s office.

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